Entries Tagged as 'commentary'

#voicestrong

#voicestrongBefore I talk about #voicestrong and it’s impact on the voiceover industry, two quick observations.

You know the great thing about life? Everything is always changing.

You know the problem with life? Everything is always changing.

Three examples.

When audio technology improved to allowed more affordable, professional audio recording into people’s homes, it was a revelation. For the voiceover industry, it helped voice talents build better, very professional home studios. But it hurt recording studios who had to find new streams of revenue lost since voice talents were not recording in the studios’ booths.

With that audio technology update, more people could live their dreams of being a professional voice talent. But many of those folks were only dreaming, because they had neither the training nor the talent (or even business savvy) to operate a voiceover business. These less knowledgeable new voice talents also negatively impacted the economics of the voiceover industry.

Advances in Internet technology also allowed companies to create on-line casting sites (known now as Pay 2 Play sites ((P2P)) for voice talents that allowed voice seekers to get hundreds of voiceover auditions with only a few mouse clicks and no in-person meetings. But voiceover agents, who for decades had managed those auditions and booked those castings, now have to work especially harder to secure those auditions and castings. Oh and the P2P model has also negatively impacted the economics of the voiceover industry.

retail onlineThese examples are business realities in the voiceover industries. Change happens in every business. The old General Store lost to the local department store, who lost to Macy’s, who lost to Wal-Mart, who seems to be currently battling with Amazon.

Ones personal reaction to change in business is usually based on whether you’re being eaten or you’re doing the eating. So change, while not always pleasant, is always present.

But in the voiceover industry, there have been a few of these P2P players who have grown to be the biggest in their business category and, because of that scope, naturally have an impact on the industry.

I had been a member on both of these bigger P2P sites and have long ago since resigned and pulled my profiles from them.

In their infancy, both sites offered opportunities. But then their business models changed, adding elements of control to money transaction and job management that were at the least questionable and, in many states, likely illegal when it came to requirements of imposed by actual professional agents and managers – which is the category these new P2P business models put these P2P companies into (although they have denied such assertions).

I found their practices improper and unethical (to BOTH voice talents and the hiring companies) and I left the P2P sites I’m referencing. But their models still exist and thrive to the detriment of novice and (strangely, to my way of thinking) more experienced voice talents.

One has to respect that every voice talent has the right and even the obligation to run their business as they see fit. If they have a financial need to try and make money via Pay 2 Play voiceover sites, then the discussion is over for them.

Voiceover P2P Ethical Business audioconnell

They will not consider the downsides of Pay 2 Plays because they cannot do so…to do so would mean they would have to either drastically change their own business plans or even cease working in voiceover. I understand the financial imperative to them personally and I respect the argument.

And it also needs to be said that there is at least one other, smaller Pay 2 Play voiceover web site, run in Europe, that I believe is ethical and is not having as negative an impact on the voiceover industry, save for some projects with ridiculously bad fees that I personally noticed.

So if change is a constant in business and change has created large P2P companies who are negatively impacting the voiceover industry, what options do the rest of us have in what historically should be just another cycle of change, albeit what I and many others consider unethical change?

A simple answer is to publicly and repeatedly expose the unethical business practices of these large Pay 2 Play sites. Doing so will help new voice talents better understand the P2P playing field (and let them make their own decisions). It might also allow established talents to understand what their business relationship with these unethical P2P companies really mean to their business and the industry they hope to thrive within. They too will make their own decision.

My friend, Erik Shepard, who is also one of my longtime agents, has recently resurrected #voicestrong . The purpose of this campaign is to foster discussion about, and even put pressure on, the unethical business practices among Pay 2 Play voiceover sites. Erik made a video about his opinions (many of which I share – not all).

I believe the history of this particular hash tag in the VO industry came about after a rather unprecedented interview that voice talent Graeme Spicer of Edge Studio held with the CEO of possibly the most questionable and unethical of all the Pay 2 Play voiceover sites.

The interview, pretty infamous among those of us in the voiceover world, was a total public relations #fail for the CEO, who offered inconsistent and embarrassingly thoughtless answers to direct and reasonable questions about his own company’s documented and dubious business practices. A later presentation by the same P2P company at VO Atlanta in 2016 confirmed the company’s complete lack of respect for the voiceover industry and those who work in it.

Full disclosure – at one time, early in its creation, I was friendly with the CEO and his spouse who also works as an executive at this company. As their business methods changed, so did our interactions. There’s that change again.

If #voicestrong can help bring to light the unethical corporate business practices of those who I believe take certain advantage of people in my industry who might not know better, then I too am #voicestrong.

a voice talent at raleigh supercon

Raleigh SuperconSo you’re saying to yourself: ‘Peter, you are a voice talent, you’ve voiced a part in a video game, you’ve done character voices your whole life! How is the Raleigh Supercon your first ComicCon?’

The answer is: ‘I don’t get out much.’

None the less, today I went to my first ComicCon…well, bigger than that, it was a SUPERcon (had to make up for lost time).

Some truths before I begin:

  • I am not a gamer
  • I don’t have that much interest in Sci-Fi outside of Star Trek (loving almost all iterations) and Star Wars (and really only the first three movies)
  • I know Dr. Who’s Blue Phone Booth was important to the story but never watched an episode so I’m not cool (but you knew that I wasn’t cool already 🙂

So admitting all this, I might have lost lots of points with some of my friends and could have risked my admittance this Con had I said this before today.

In spite of the fact that I never got into video or on-line gaming and sci-fi stories personally, I appreciated the interest that they generated, which is part of the reason I wanted to go to a ComicCon. Plus, like I said, I’m a character voice actor – I knew I’d find something of interest to me.

Buffalo didn’t really have a Con of note. Raleigh, on the hand did. So it was off to the Raleigh SuperCon I went this morning.

What follows are some of my observations that may prove entertaining to those of you who have been to a ComicCon or enlightening to those of you who like me (before today) have never been.

Raleigh Supercon 2017 Saturday

  • Many bigger Cons take place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – Saturdays are likely among the busiest days and just after it opens is really busy and you shouldn’t go then…cause the lines are long then, like around the block long (find shade or you will sweat, which I learned the hard way)
  • If you have Uber in your area, try and take it – it saved my bacon from dealing with crazy traffic around the venue and annoying parking
  • People attending the show were nice – normal, not weird; I wasn’t expect weird people but some people who haven’t been to Cons think everybody there is kind of wacko….no they generally aren’t (and yes, there are always exceptions)
  • I could only identify about 1/3 of the costume characters walking around (again, because I don’t follow the genres) but I really appreciated the creativity that everyone showed in their costume design and makeup
  • Clearly, everyone who wore costumes (Cosplay) were so happy to be out in their wares and among their people; it made me happy for them
  • While there are sessions on various topics and game rooms, I didn’t do any of that; I went right to the show floor
  • The show floor consisted of autograph alley (with all sorts “celebrities”) and then hundreds of vendors selling comic book, games, posters, costumes and every knick knack you can think of having to do with every character, story line, logo etc you could imagine (and other stuff you didn’t know existed)
  • The show floor has lots of interesting things to see but I didn’t buy anything…many others did, I am quite sure
  • Voice Talent Peter K. O'Connell, Author David Atkins and Voice Talent Greg HouserWhat made the show fun for me was catching up with my fellow voice talent Greg Houser (who I believe I first met in 2010 or 2011 at VOICE in Los Angeles); he’s been a voice talent in anime titles including “Evangelion”, “Ikki Tousen”, “One Piece”, “Shiki”, and “Tales of Vesperia” — he was signing autographs and presenting a seminar at Raleigh SuperCon

The question is whether I would recommend someone going to a Comic-Con based on this experience. Short answer: yes.

I think it was especially important for me to attend because I was NOT and am not a Sci-Fi or gamer person. However it’s good to be exposed to and event like this and enjoy the experience. Raleigh SuperCon did a nice job and I’m sure if a similar Con comes to your area, you’ll have fun too.

 

all voice talents are steve whitmire

There’s on old saying that you haven’t really worked in radio until you’ve been fired.

True of my old business, but for my current business I’ve always felt the saying should be you haven’t really worked in voiceover until you’ve been hired…for the day. The next day, until you get a VO job, you’re still not a voice talent.

muppet montageSteve Whitmire, who has worked with Jim Henson’s Muppets since 1978, has been the puppeteer and voice of Kermit THE Frog since Jim Henson’s death in 1990.

We found out this week that Whitmire had been fired from that job in October of 2016. He evidently kept the dismissal quiet in the hopes the Muppet executives would have a change of heart.

As of this writing, they have not.

Just a brief background, before I get to the meat of this post.

When Jim Henson died, I kind of lost my interest in the Muppets. Not out of any disrespect for those that continued after him but just cause when I saw Kermit in a show or movie, I knew Jim Henson wasn’t there. I know I am not supposed to think of the actors at all when I watch The Muppets, but I do.

I thought of Henson and it made me a bit sad.

Through Henson’s children and the talented puppeteers and writers, the show went on as it should. Steve Whitmire was elevated to the puppeteer and voice of Kermit and has performed admirably. Whitmire should be nothing but proud of his work and how he honored Henson with his interpretation of Kermit.

Under whatever circumstances or whatever ‘new creative direction’ the Disney management (who now owns the Muppets) wanted to move forward in, I don’t know. Whitmire was called and told his services were no longer required. He stated recently that working for the Muppets and being Kermit was very much a way of life, given his tenure and history with both Henson and the company.

This job was clearly very personal to him. I very much respect why that was while also admiring his great talent.

To be clear, I do not know Steve Whitmire.

But to me it seems likely, having read his recent blog post, he’s been living with a great deal of pain and sorrow since October 2016. He may be well over it by now and I hope that’s the case.

It’s a pain and sorrow almost every working voice actor has known at sometime.

I have been there. Maybe you have too or, if not, someday you likely will be.

Though not within anything as incredibly famous and ingrained as Whitmire’s work, I’ve been fired from a few really nice, longer-term voice acting jobs over 35+ years.

Sometimes the firing was because of a “different direction” for the project, a couple of time I screwed up (it happens) and sometimes I just could not give the producers what they wanted, hard as I tried.

That subsequent feeling of failure, depression and fear for the future (“do I even have a career”) after losing one of these gigs can be paralyzing.

‘Get up in the morning?! What for?!’

And yet we must get up in the morning. And the morning after that.

As much as we may identify our lives with our jobs, we are MORE than our jobs.

We have much to offer other clients or in some cases, other industries.

It is SO hard…but we must move on when we lose these big gigs.

We cannot wallow. Wallowing can start to feel good after a while but it leads to excuses, laziness and a list of other not good things. Do. Not. Wallow.

We need to remember what we were like when we got that nice, big  voiceover job…what was our attitude, how did we present ourselves, how did we sound?

What was our mindset? Likely, it was that the world was our oyster and we wanted to go out and get the big gigs. We need to do it again. And we can.

Yes, we’ve been handed a slice of humble pie. We ate it and now we move on. Only WE can control our future. But also, WE control our future.  That’s pretty cool!

We are voice actors, we have skills, we have talents and we have contacts.

Train, audition, network, market, repeat.

Losing a big gig may FEEL like the end of your world. But it isn’t, as long as you won’t let it be the end of your world.

I hope this helps.

audio’connell at lake lanier

VoiceTalents Peter K. O'Connell and Sean Caldwell4th of July and a long weekend took the audio’connells to parts south (even more south than Raleigh)! We did lots of visiting.

One visit including seeing one of the top radio imaging and promo voice talents around.

My voiceover pal Sean Caldwell has a wonderful place on Lake Lanier and was kind enough to invite us to spend sometime there with his family. The lake, the neighborhood and of course Sean’s place were all terrific. It was a great place for swimming until a quick storm moved in.

Then it was off to dinner…and right behind the restaurant was an ice cream stand. Well it would have been rude not to stop by there and sample a treat…or 7.

So much fun to hang with Sean and his family who got along swimmingly with my brood (get it, “swimmingly”, you see what I did there?)

voiceover hangouts

Jodi Krangle Voiceover Hangout July 2017To look at the picture, voice talents of a certain age might be reminded of The Brady Bunch. But this was not ‘the story of a lovely lady who was bringing up three very lovely girls.” OK, the girls in the picture are lovely, but that’s not the point.

This was what happened when one voice talent (the one and only Ms. Jodi Krangle, in the upper left hand corner…where Marcia Brady used to be — that’s me next to her in the upper middle, where Carol Brady used to hangout) innocently posted Thursday evening on Facebook that she wanted to host a voiceover hangout for whomever wanted to join. I think she used her Canadian vernacular, water cooler, but hers is a country that also spells color with a “u” 😉

Like all great parties, nothing was planned but it turned out great. Voice talents who happened to catch Jodi’s post just clicked on the link she posted and were in on the video call.

What’s great about such things is that they are often a unique mix of people, like at a good party. Some people I knew, some people I did not but we all had VO in common and conversation flowed easily.

Unfortunately, I could not stay as long as I wanted to but I appreciate Jodi getting everybody together and everyone for their insights and humor during the video call.

o canada, happy 150th birthday

Happy Canada Day 2017

If you really knew me, not just from my silly voiceover posts, you would know that, for me, Canada really was a second home.

I love America and I’m proud to be an American but also proud to be part Canadian.

Canada 150th Birthday logo

My family spent over 45 summers in Fort Erie, Ontario, on Lake Erie at Crescent Beach.

Caramilk Bars, Tim Horton’s Donuts and Hockey.

Great people, great place, great country. And the best national anthem.

It is still one of my goals to do the train ride from east to west, seeing all the provinces. I think that would be lots of fun!

So a sincere happy 150th birthday to Canada. Wish I could be there to celebrate with you.

I will celebrate with you in spirit!